On failing tests

“Still in the office?” is what I heard Vamanan say from the other side when I received his call last evening, when I was just about to shut down my computer. And then for a couple of seconds, we both laughed heartily at his joke. Once I hung up after having conversations about a certain project, I realized how truly virtual my life had become. Just the other day, a friend quipped on how long a commute it is for me to my workplace!


When people in my family heard about this arrangement called “work from home”, they couldn’t help but react sceptically. I remember how Amar had explained elaborately how difficult it is for Indians to take to this fairly new concept of working from home, and what problems one might face while in India. Let alone powercuts, and inquisitive and gossipy neighbours, disciplining the self could be a big problem. When I packed my bags and came back to Kolkata, I kept all his warnings in mind. The first few days were spent in explaining the “concept” to friends, neighbours and family members. I could see bubbles popping out of their heads—“Poor girl! She must have been fired! The market is in such a bad shape…it leaves people with no other option but to lie about what they do! What work can she possibly do while staying at home all day?!”—while they seemed to be in total agreement with me that it’s quite a novel and effective way of getting work done. I could even see my mother becoming defensive about me when inquisitive neighbours asked her about what her daughter did. She knows it’s quite a new concept in India, and having been faced with quizzical expressions from extended-family members, she knew better what to do—promptly she would say, “Oh she has been transferred to Kolkata!” “Transfer” is a concept more easily relatable by people around, and it worked brilliantly!


Last week, I had to go to meet an author at his place. For the first twenty minutes, I had to explain what I am really doing out here. I realized that there have been so many books I have worked on all this while, without having met the author even once that proving myself was never an issue. The mails we sent off from the official addresses were proofs enough. They never had to allow me into their personal spaces, so things were pretty comfortable! When I rang the bell at my author’s place, I knew I would have to take these mental tests to prove I am the editor from Pearson Education, who is working on his book. The other factor that has always worked against me in such cases is the fact that I look younger than what I really am! And such elderly, learned and erudite authors often have issues trusting such seemingly young editors with their manuscripts. So I had dressed up in a sari to ensure I at least looked mature. Amar’s advice keeps echoing in my head in such situations: “Don’t start giggling!” That’s one more part of me that works against me when I have to prove myself. People who giggle too often are seldom taken seriously! So here I was, standing outside an author’s door, wearing a sari, and a very grim expression, with my hands folded in a “namaskar” pose!


Tumi to chhelemanush he!” (You are such a kid!), my author said as he opened the door. Well, I failed my first test there. All efforts of pretension in vain! Next, maintaining my grim expression, I handed over my visiting card to him, to add some authenticity to my identity. He took it from my hand, read it carefully, and stared at me questioningly. “But this says you are from Pearson Education, Noida? What’s the deal? Where do you work from? From Kolkata or from Noida? And if from Kolkata, HOW?” So I fail my second test! Still grim, but polite, I go back to explaining all that work-from-home is about!


By the end of our meeting, he seemed quite satisfied. Before he closed the door behind me, he said, smiling, “Eto chhelemanush hoye, eto bhalo kaj korchho! Besh bhalo laglo!” (Even though you are such a kid, you are working so competently! I feel good!) So I passed. I figured one way or the other, it is not all that bad to fail a couple of tests initially to get some appreciation at the end!





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This blog is for all employees of Pearson in India . We hope to share updates - both personal and professional - from the worlds of education and publishing.